NBA Trade Analysis: James Harden to Houston
The big news before the season starts on Tuesday has been the trade of James Harden to the Houston Rockets. After Harden declined the last offer from OKC, Sam Presti, the GM of the Thunder, shipped Harden away while his value was still high. Here is the full trade:
James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Haywood, and Daequan Cook.
Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, 1st rounder from Toronto (automatic lottery for 5 years, and if not received by 2017, the pick becomes an automatic 1st rounder not protected in 2018, received in Kyle Lowry trade), 1st rounder from Dallas (top 20 protected, received in Jordan Hill trade), and a 2nd rounder (Bobcats 2nd rounder, received in Courtney Lee trade).
How Houston looks after the trade:
The Houston Rockets have tried for many years to get an all-star on the Rockets after the injuries to Yao Ming and Tracy Mcgrady. After missing out on n Stoudemire, Anthony, Williams, Bosh, Howard, Bynum, and others, The Rockets finally got one in James Harden. Harden turned 23 this offseason, and hasn’t even entered his prime. He is coming off a season averaging 16.8 PPG on 49.1% shooting from the field. Harden will be the “it” guy for Houston, and have the ball in his hands a lot.
GM Daryl Morey did a great job being in touch with Sam Presti for months about a possible James Harden deal. (For more of an inside look on the trade click here). Finally on Saturday, when Harden passed on the last offer, Presti pulled the trigger on the deal that shocked America. Morey was able to ship Kevin Martin who is on the last year of his contract, and was facing questions about his toughness last year. Lamb is a tough loss for the Rockets, but he would not have much playing time behind Harden, and is not a sure thing to ever develop. The loss of the picks might sound bad, but the Raptors lottery pick might not be received for a while due to the good roster the Raptors have put together. With the Protections being: top 3 in 2013, top 2 in 2014 and 2015, #1 in 2016 and 2017, it’s possible the Raptors are a playoff team for that long, and the pick becomes an automatic 1st rounder in 2018. However it is probable the Raptors will not make the playoffs in one of the years, but I don’t expect to the pick to be such a high pick. The Mavericks pick will either be in the 20’s range, and if the Mavericks fail to have a 20’s range pick by 2018, then it is an unprotected 1st rounder. The 2nd rounder comes from the Bobcats which likely will be a top pick in the 2nd round.
Along with Harden, the Rockets also received Cole Aldrich who can be the backup center for the Rockets this year, Daequan Cook who can be the backup shooting guard, and Lazar Haywood who might not have a spot on the team in a few days. Obviously the main piece of the trade was Harden and after they lock him up, likely on a max-contract, they will have secured their all-star for many years. The question for the Rockets will be if Harden is able to handle duties as the “it” guy. If Harden is capable of putting up 20+ points a game this year, and take his game to the next level and become a superstar, then this trade is a steal for the Rockets, if Harden just ends up becoming the next Joe Johnson (a good player, however overpaid), then the Rockets might have overpaid both on his new contract (likely a max deal either 4 or 5 years) and in this trade. The risk is definitely worth the gamble for the Rockets as they have been stuck in mediocrity for years without any all-star. The team will likely not make the playoffs this year, and receive another high pick to rebuild the franchise, but getting Harden to go along with Lin, Asik, Parson, and Patterson, was a great start to the season by the Rockets.
Rockets grade: A
How OKC looks after the trade:
The Thunder fans and players had to be shocked when they heard about the trade. Everyone in the world was curious how the Thunder will be able to fit Harden on the team for the long-term, but most assumed Harden would still be on the team this year, and maybe leave next offseason. However, though the Thunder lost a great piece in Harden, they did a good job getting good value from the Rockets for one of their all-stars.
One can argue that the main piece of the trade for the Thunder was Kevin Martin. Others will argue it is Jeremy Lamb, and others will argue it’s the picks. Well, for this year, Kevin Martin will be the big piece. Kevin Martin had a great preseason for the Rockets. He was coming into the season thinking he was going to be the main guy on the Rockets and ready for a huge season during his final year of his contract. Well, Martin, who is excited about the trade, will now likely be relegated to the 6th man role that Harden had in OKC. Martin should do well there, known for his efficiency. He is a good shooter, who can draw fouls very well. However, his defense is non-existent, and he finds many ways to miss basketball games. Martin will likely want more money then the Thunder are willing to give him, so it’s possible he doesn’t resign, but that might have to wait till the season is over. The Thunder did a great job getting a capable replacement for Harden.
The Thunder also received rookie Jeremy Lamb from the Rockets. The 12th overall pick from the 2012 NBA draft, Lamb is often compared to teammate Kevin Martin. He is a good shooter, and athletic, however is skinny and his defense needs to improve. If Lamb can become the next Kevin Martin for the Thunder, then the Thunder received a great piece in the deal for Harden. However, if Lamb fails to develop into a starting SG, and rather becomes the next Rashad McCants, then a big part of the deal for the Thunder could be wasted.
The good thing about the deal for the Thunder, is that they also received picks in the deal if Lamb fails to develop. Presti has done a great job in the past with his drafts and there is no reason to believe this won’t continue. However, everything is based on when and where the picks are received. If Toronto is a playoff team for the next six years, then the pick won’t be a great one. Likewise if the Mavericks become a top 10-team soon, then that pick won’t be a great one. Time will tell with these picks how the Thunder made out on the deal, but overall, Presti got almost maximum value for his young 6th man of the year.
Thunder grade: B+
Both teams made out pretty well in the trade, and both have potential to be great trades or terrible trades for either teams. A lot will depend on the development of Harden and Lamb, and also depend on the value of those picks in the future. The Rockets were smart to get Harden while they can before other teams jump into the bidding, and the Thunder were smart to get maximum value from the Rockets now, as opposed to waiting until the offseason when his price-tag would have diminished if no deal for an extension was in place.
So what say you NBA fans? Did the Rockets do a great job getting an all-star for their franchise? Did they give up to much? Did the Thunder make the right move making this trade before this season? Leave your opinions in the comments section or tweet to me @YoniPollak.